Autonomous – Andy Marino – Disney-Hyperion – Published 3 April 2018
William Mackler is about to go on a road trip of a lifetime. After winning a contest—and nearly dying in the process—he becomes the proud owner of Autonomous, a driverless car that knows where you want to go before you do. #Worthit! To sweeten the deal he gets to pick three friends to go with him on a cross-country trip to see their favorite band. For William, a reckless adrenaline junkie, this is the perfect last hurrah before he and his friends go their separate ways after graduation. But Autonomous is more than just a car without a steering wheel. It’s capable of downloading all of the passengers’ digital history—from the good, to the bad, to the humiliating. The information is customized into an itinerary that will expose a few well-kept secrets, but it will also force William to face some inner demons of his own. Think you know Autonomous? The real question is, how much does Autonomous know about you?
Please note this is a review of the original book that was to be published in November 2017, and some things may have changed in the April 2018 release.
Picture a road trip – sunny days, hair blowing in the wind, happy times of solid friendship and sing-a-longs to feel-good music. Autonomous is not that road trip. Instead, Autonomous is an examination of the true nature of humanity, where buried secrets are laid bare and the harsh truths of reality are posed against the speculation of how technology might evolve and how it might reflect those truths.
When William wins a state-of-the-art car in a competition, he plans to take his three best friends on an epic road trip. But while discovering the extent of the car’s abilities, from being completely self driving to apparent mind reading, everything William had planed for the road trip begins to fall apart. Instead of making fantastic memories with his friends, their relationships are tested and things get far more dangerous then they could have imagined.
I was totally excited by the premise of Autonomous. It takes the humble road trip to the next level. How cool to win a car that can basically read your mind and take you where you really want to go – and in serious style, too. But things get serious pretty quickly. This wasn’t the sort of book I really enjoyed reading, too gritty for my tastes, yet it integrates such important, realistic themes and speculates on a future that seems all too possible. I totally understood Christina’s skepticism and wariness of Autonomous. I was rooting for her to hack the car and find its true, nefarious purpose hidden under its disguise of butt-conforming seats and luggage-hiding floors. Yet it is the four main characters who are the focus of this book, who go on the real journey of discovery.
The journey may not have been nice, and the secrets revealed take them to the very edge – drugs, violence, the dangers of internet communication, hacking, dangerous secrets. The chapters rotate between four perspectives, William and his three road trip companions. I did find the book quite long and perhaps the four perspectives added to this, but it does help the reader experience everything through each character’s eyes, allowing for the secrets to slowly unfold.
Autonomous is a interesting investigation into technology-meets-humanity, and how they each can reflect the true nature of the other.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Cars, Driverless cars, competitions, friendships, human nature, artificial intelligence, future cars, road trips, friendship, relationship breakdown, drug addiction, hacking, surveillance.
Reading age guide: Ages 15 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references, implied sexual relationships and implied sex scenes. Strong drug references – cocaine, addiction and frequent alcohol references. Frequent coarse language, f*** (46), sh** (70), as***** (3), bit** (2), pi**(3). Strong violence – shootings, fist fights.
Published: 3 April 2018 by Disney-Hyperion.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 368 pages.